Portugal beats Belgium 2-1 in 1st game after Brussels attack


LEIRIA, Portugal (AP) — First-half goals from Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo gave Portugal a 2-1 win over Belgium in a friendly game Tuesday that was moved from Brussels after attacks in the Belgian capital killed 35 people.

Nani broke down the left flank and curled a right-foot shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the 20th, and five minutes before the interval Ronaldo got his 56th international goal with a glancing header.

Romelu Lukaku pulled one back for a lackluster Belgium side with a header in the 62nd minute as a series of substitutions weakened the home team’s first-half dominance.

The game was switched to Leiria, in central Portugal, from the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels because of security concerns following airport and subway attacks there.

Belgium’s players team wore special jerseys to mark the attacks. During the pre-game warmup, the players’ shirts had a message on the front that read, “In memory of all victims, Brussels 22.03.2016” — the day of the attacks.

Body searches of the around 20,000 fans entering the Leiria stadium were tighter than usual. Portugal’s president and prime minister, as well as the leader of the country’s Muslim community, attended the game in what they said was a show of support for the Belgian people. A minute’s silence for the victims was observed before the kick-off.

Belgium, without injured key players Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and Kevin de Bruyne, never showed anything like the form that has made it FIFA’s top-ranked team. A 36th-minute effort from Dries Mertens was its first shot on goal.

Portugal, which like Belgium has qualified for the European Championship later this year, was looking to redeem itself after a surprise 1-0 home defeat against Bulgaria last week.

“We were in control for most of the time, even though Belgium occasionally caused us some trouble,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.

Courtois kept Belgium in the game in the early stages, denying the home team four times in as many minutes. After some fancy footwork on the left by Ronaldo, Courtois flung himself low to his right to keep out powerful shots from Joao Mario and Adrien Silva. Then he got his fingertips to headers from Nani and Ronaldo, with the Real Madrid forward’s effort bouncing off the crossbar.

At the other end, Lukaku was a handful for Pepe but Belgium was feeling the absence of its injured playmakers.